SDLP launch manifesto … flags, symbols, and upping the ante on unification

It was the SDLP’s turn on Wednesday to launch their manifesto.

… make no mistake, the SDLP, an Irish Nationalist Party, desperately wants a better Northern Ireland. We want to see a North which is attractive to business: a North that takes care of its sick and gives dignity and respect to its older citizens. A North which is safe and a great place to work and to raise a family.

It was back to their campaign’s central message of uniting people and building prosperity. Party leader, Margaret Ritchie went on to say:

I’m not here today to criticise others, but you are free to contrast the SDLP record on uniting people with that of those who gave you the OFMDFM Cohesion Sharing and Integration Strategy. Ask any of the churches or NGOs or anyone who is serious about bringing this community together what they really thought of it. Sooner or later this inadequate strategy will have to be completely rewritten.

And outside of Government we have led the way. We have shown our respect and readiness to embrace and represent all traditions. And when presented with the chance to wave flags and use symbols to advance the narrow perspective of our own tradition only or follow the path of reconciliation – we will always choose the latter course – even though it is more difficult.

She was critical of this year’s budget:

The Executive Budget was as we said at the time, lazy and unimaginative. It still is. I’m not here today to criticise others but you are free to contrast the SDLP record on building prosperity with the contribution of those who devised the Executive Budget. Ask any of the economists or businesspeople who care passionately about rebalancing our economy what they really thought of it. Sooner or later this inadequate budget will have to be re-written.

The SDLP’s manifesto [link added now the document’s been tracked down on the SDLP website] stretches to more than 50 pages, and is peppered with paragraphs in Irish. Like most of the local manifestos, some ideas are shared with other parties.

An additional 16,000 jobs are promised over 3 years: 7,000 via Green New Deal; 3,300 in agri-food sector; 2,200 through tourism; 2,000 by growing ICT; and 1,500 jobs in shovel-ready building projects.

Investment in early years is included in the Tackling Underachievement section.

The SDLP’s opposition to the current flawed Budget was based on the disregard the Budget’s authors have shown towards the most vulnerable in society, including our children … We will ensure full implementation of an integrated, long-term 0-6 years strategy which recognises that early childhood care and education are the right of all children and the basis of human development. Getting the implementation of this strategy right will be crucial to the social, economic and emotional wellbeing of our society in the future.

The SDLP will “continue to oppose any increase in university fees” and “urge the other parties in the Executive to resist and reject it too”.

Previous manifesto concerns around the role and accountability of MI5 are repeated.

Over one year into devolution, critical issues around the role of MI5 and the Serious Organised Crime Agency remain with London. It will build confidence if all those agencies are accountable to the Justice Minister, the Department of Justice, the Assembly Justice Committee and the PSNI. Defeating the dissident threat must be through modern and accountable intelligence techniques, ensuring intelligence primacy is taken from MI5 and transferred to the PSNI, and through all-Ireland security cooperation and action.

Amongst the pledges and ideas, there is some consideration that the SDLP alone cannot achieve all their goals.

First-class public services will require significant investment as well as reform. The SDLP will provide political leadership to undertake a review, but consensus will be vital for the success of such a project.

The decentralisation of public sector jobs – “restoring the Bain decentralisation initiative also abandoned by DUP and Sinn Féin” – is on the SDLP agenda, “relocating 2,000 public sector jobs across the North over the next three years”.

The SDLP “will strive for ambitious, legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, to be met through a Northern Ireland Climate Change Act. The financial, environmental and social cost of not doing so is simply too huge.”

While there’s reference to the budget’s allocation of “around £200 million capital investment for public transport versus almost £1.2 billion for roads”, the SDLP’s desire to work “towards a more balanced distribution of spending on our roads and our public transport systems” is not quantified.

On the subject of libraries, the manifesto points out that “the SDLP was the only party on the Belfast Education and Library Board to oppose library closures”. Did they mean the Libraries NI Board? Looking forward, the SDLP plan “to challenge the department’s proposals aimed at destroying the local library, in both our towns and countryside … We will work to secure a commitment from the next minister and the Executive to keep our local libraries and keep much needed jobs.”

The SDLP propose “cutting the number of MLAs from 108 to 96 by the time of the next election, with a further reduction negotiable after 2015”, disaggregate OFMDFM reallocating many of its functions to other departments, and support “reinforcing the joint nature of OFMDFM by changing titles to ‘Joint First Ministers’”.

In a report on Wednesday evening’s news, Margaret Ritchie said

“Tell me one thing the deputy First Minister cannot do that the First Minister can do?”

The obvious answer is that the FM can walk straight from his office into Executive meetings using the adjoining door while DFM can’t!

The last observation that talking about unification is a big issue for both Sinn Féin and the SDLP in their 2011 campaigns.

During the next mandate, we will seek a referendum on a United Ireland, for which the SDLP will campaign vigorously in favour of a ‘yes’ vote …

  • the Assembly would continue, as a regional parliament of a United Ireland with all its cross-community protections
  • the Executive would be kept, bringing together all political parties
  • all the Agreement’s equality and human rights protections, including the Bill of Rights, would still be guaranteed
  • the right to identify oneself as British or Irish, or both, and hold British or Irish passports would endure
  • East-West cooperation would continue. In particular, just as the Irish Government has a say in the North now, the British Government would have a say in the North in a United Ireland
  • those in the North who want it, should have representation in the House of Lords in a United Ireland.

This is a bit of a step up from the 2007 manifesto which stated:

Engage in outreach with the unionist community to persuade them of the benefits of a United Ireland and reassure them of the protections that the Agreement offers them in it; and

Seek a referendum on a United Ireland when the Agreement’s institutions are operating stably and campaign vigorously for a yes vote.

Changed times.

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  • Kadfoomsa

    “he SDLP, and Irish Nationalist Party”

    Confused.

    Educate me.

  • Typo! “and” -> “an”

  • HeinzGuderian

    * Shakes head in utter bewilderment *

  • Kadfoomsa

    Is it online? is there a link?

  • HeinzGuderian

    ” upping the ante on reunification ”

    I kid you not !!

    Talk about laugh…….I nearly offered the ciggies around !!!! 🙂

  • Dewi

    “The obvious answer is that the FM can walk straight from “his office into Executive meetings using the adjoining door while DFM can’t!”

    That, of course, should read “the dFM”….

  • ■those in the North who want it, should have representation in the House of Lords in a United Ireland

    They’re planning to introduce a peerage system for the island?

  • Neil

    It starts well:

    … make no mistake, the SDLP, an Irish Nationalist Party, desperately wants a better Northern Ireland. We want to see a North which is attractive to business: a North that takes care of its sick and gives dignity and respect to its older citizens. A North which is safe and a great place to work and to raise a family

    Wishy washy ballix – of course the SDLP want all of those things, everyone does. At least Madge’s language is imaginative:

    Sooner or later this inadequate strategy will have to be completely rewritten.

    Sooner or later this inadequate budget will have to be re-written.

    They oppose library closures, and want to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, and want to see more spent on public transport and less on roads. The first two suggestions cost too much, and the idea that we should increase the amount we spend on subsidising translink and further neglect our roads underlines the pie in the sky thinking involved.

    Our roads are falling apart, translink, like many other transport companies, should live and die on their own. It enrages me to think that we should spend less on, say, the Glen Road in Belfast which is currently in a shocking state (as are many roads I’m sure after the winter) and instead give money to the Metro service so the same busses driven by the same drivers can transport people to the western corner of the city centre once every 2 hours on a Sunday.

    Their service is shit, and we should give them more to maintaint their shit service, when we know that people are still going to drive their cars to work as getting the bus (for me at least) means walking a mile from the bus stop in town to work every day. If their service was a tiny bit joined up, and people could get where they wanted to go without having to add a half hour to their journey for the walk from the only place in town the bus stops (City Hall) maybe more people would use it and they’d not need our money.

    Finally, on the subject of their many, many achievements, I’d repost something from Otto on this thread:

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2011/04/14/sdlp-launch-an-online-peb/comment-page-1/#comments

    What progress has the SDLP made in the management of their existing ministry. How’s the Royal Exchange coming along, Queen’s Parade/Marine Gardens in Bangor, urban blight on the Newtownards Road. Where’s the SDLP, responsible for urban regeneration been on out of town development? What’s Attwood attention seeking over Sunday trading for rather than getting on with fixing what is actually broken?

    Kind of paints all their promises in a certain light – they’ll brag about their effectiveness without citing examples (they wouldn’t want to look at their many failures in delivering what they’re paid to deliver), and make wishy washy promises about how they’ll bring sunshine, and smiles to people if they vote for them on May 5th.

  • Nunoftheabove

    [OFMDFM Cohesion Sharing and Integration Strategy]

    – “Sooner or later this inadequate strategy will have to be completely rewritten”.

    [The Executive Budget]

    – “Sooner or later this inadequate budget will have to be re-written”.

    Indeed. But what’s preventing it from being sooner and why haven’t the SDLP already done so ? When they’ve done so, what are they going to do about implementing both of them ?

    On second thoughts, since she thinks that the churches are serious about bringing this community together, just don’t bother with the Cohesion Sharing and Integration Strategy rewriting. I think I can probably guess just how desperately flawed and pathetic it would be.

  • Henry94

    those in the North who want it, should have representation in the House of Lords in a United Ireland.

    Of course that would be a matter for the British but it would be nice of them to appoint some unionists to the Lords if only for old times sake.

    There is of course no representation. You don’t elect a Lord.

  • granni trixie

    re CSI document: There was almost universal criticism to the CSI consultation document – not rocket science,there were obvious flaws. Alliance welcomed it as at least a sign of committo…”ment to sharing,getting it on the agenda (again). “We are where we are” has its place. The worst thing would be to give up on this crucial project.

    One detail also reveals the inflated nature of SDLP claims: Maomi and Michael Long were very involved in the widespread campaign to retain local libraries. I know this because like many Alliance members I was asked to sign a petition. So much for “we were the only ones to think about this issue..”.

    Wondering who in the SDLP they are lining up for HOL?

  • leftofcentre
  • DC

    translink, like many other transport companies, should live and die on their own.

    It’s not as simple as that as subsidising transport is also a form of tax relief for workers and commuters – largely benefits the middleclass all the same; but, Translink bus services should be reviewed and perhaps reduced where there is a rail connection overlapping with its bus services.

    Also some train services should be reduced in number but only on the basis that peak time services are increased – in line with available budget.

  • Neil

    Hi DC,

    I do think that if Translink were to try to make the service work properly then they could make more money on their own. I pay over a hundred quid a month to park in the city centre and would rather not bother. But as I said that service isn’t joined up in the slightest. I can either drive or pay 1.50 to get dropped off at City Hall. I can’t make it to East Bridge Street on Public transport without paying again.

    The truth is that the service won’t work for many people like myself who aren’t lucky enough to work beside City Hall, and who won’t countenance the idea of losing 40 minutes to one hour every day extra just to get to work – never mind paying an extra bus far and waiting around for two busses.

    I would love to see an effective public transport system which I could use and save money and time. However that’s not the Translink way. Their approach is and always has been ‘we’re the only show in town, like it or lump it’.

    But at least if they could catch up with many other cities around the world and say you could purchase a zone one card and get yourself anywhere in town (and introduce the necessary links) they might find they earn more money and don’t have to take it from our stretched budget. But as it is, it just seems like throwing good money after bad. I’d like to know that some improvement might be made, if we’re to subsidise the service further, and not that we’ll get the same old shit service and still have less money for roads – something that virtually everyone uses due largely to the porrness of our public transport system.

    Tangential rant over.

  • DC

    I think software could hold the key to unlocking the best way to provide public transport.

    An online survey could be used that asks commuters to map their journey to and from work, how they travel and when – time and days etc. (Perhaps full- and part-time and temporary working would need to be recorded to map out longterm predictions, over short term working patterns.)

    Translink would then be able to look at this information and shape its sevices based on existing trends.

    The idea being to get the largest number of people to respond.

  • nightrider

    dc
    Why does Translink have a monopoly on much of the transport system here? The rest of the UK has competition, which drives down prices and increases service provision.
    Time for 1 of the parties to put this in their manifesto?

  • DC

    I imagine the software wouldn’t be too dissimilar to that of mapping out anti-social behaviour in your area etc that the police are piloting.

  • DC

    The rest of the UK has competition, which drives down prices and increases service provision.

    There’s no evidence to suggest that. Train fares in particular have gone up and up and up.

  • Alias

    “… make no mistake, the SDLP, an Irish Nationalist Party, desperately wants a better Northern Ireland.”

    That’s a contradiction in terms. An Irish nationalist would want to terminate NI, not improve it.

    They are, like the Shinners, a British nationalist party since the promote the British constitutional concept of non-sovereign nations sharing a state and do not advocate a sovereign state for their nation, which is an essential condition of nationalism.

  • Charminator

    Irrelevance…. I could say more, but a party of old-timers and slick careerists double-jobbing really doesn’t deserve much more analysis than that. They’ve weathered the SF storm and in fairness may even come back with an additional seat or two (W Tyrone, E Antrim), but who really cares…. They’re not a major player and few care if they’re not at the table when the big decisions are made.

  • Neil

    Would be curious to know if their attempts to see Rodney Connor home in F&ST will have an impact. I was ambivalent towards them prior to that event, now I’m firmly anti SDLP.

  • Charminator

    Yes, good point Neil. Certainly can’t help… have been local rumblings over that neck of the woods by some of their councillors about Tommy Gallagher too though.
    My prediction: they’ll get Gallagher in and inside a couple of years retire him and bring Fearghal McKinney in to raise his profile. The avoidance of by-elections has been used, admittedly with great skill, by the SDLP particularly to bring in fresh talent and raise their profile PRIOR to having to seek election. Ideally, by-elections should be introduced for any retiring MLA.

  • Aontachtach

    Many unionists like myself are starting to believe that the SDLP genuinely want to unite the people of NI and the ROI and not just the land mass. To be honest there is nothing that SF could do or say that will make me like them or give them the time of day. Their brand of Irishness repulses me. It is good to see SDLP election posters up in places like Bangor, Newtownards and Knock and nobody giving them a second glance. SF will probably never gain that respect in Unionist areas.

  • Alias,

    > That’s a contradiction in terms. An Irish nationalist would want to terminate NI, not improve it.

    The SDLP position would be that even as a part of a united Ireland, NI would still need to be a strong and confident region, with its own identity, tourism, industry specialisms etc. In a similar way, the west of Ireland would need to be a coherent region with distinctive strengths and personality.

  • Charminator

    Alan,

    You’ve noted….
    “The SDLP position would be that even as a part of a united Ireland, NI would still need to be a strong and confident region, with its own identity, tourism, industry specialisms etc. In a similar way, the west of Ireland would need to be a coherent region with distinctive strengths and personality.”

    Which SDLP? The Patsy “Fianna Fail” McGlone SDLP? Or the red McDevitt/Attwood/Ritchie “axis”? Surely not the Declan “Single Nationalist Party” O’Loan SDLP anyway?

    You’ve managed to present a united SDLP perspective on something which, frankly, I very much doubt the SDLP have even an iota about. If ever Irish unity beckons, the SDLP will be the first casualty’s of it. It removes absolutely any purpose to their existence, if such can be said to exist now anyway.

  • Reader

    Alias: An Irish nationalist would want to terminate NI, not improve it.
    Vote for us. We intend to make you and your children live in a real shitheap for the next 40 years so your neighbours’ grandchildren will vote for a United Ireland.

  • Charminator – Good point. I most recently heard this position voiced by Fearghal McKinney / Conall McDevitt at a breakfast event when Ferghal asked the rhetorical question

    If you woke up one morning in a United Ireland what would be the first thing you’d need?

    And I heckled “Euros” … which wasn’t the “strong, distinctive North” that he was about to articulate. PS: Since then, others have suggested alternative answers, the best of which were (a) breakfast, and (2) a pee.

  • Comrade Stalin

    We have shown our respect and readiness to embrace and represent all traditions.

    An SDLP guy was on here a few weeks ago saying that it was wrong for David Ford to be justice minister because he wasn’t a Catholic.

    Maybe he didn’t get the memo.

  • separatesix

    I noticed the SDLP’s P.E.B showed a shot of a brand new republican emblem followed by another shot of a tattered union flag. Was there a hidden meaning?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’d like one of these people advocating Irish reunification to explain how they would manage the privatization of the NHS in Northern Ireland, which would clearly be a requirement to integrate the two systems.

  • [i]Why does Translink have a monopoly on much of the transport system here? The rest of the UK has competition, which drives down prices and increases service provision.[/i]

    Here in East Anglia Stagecoach have a private monopoly so there is absolutely no competition, the service is terrible and the fares have shot up massively ahead of inflation. There can’t really be competition in transport, either you get the bus or you don’t; they’re not gonna start racing each other on the same routes or something.

  • Paynoattentiontome

    I see that the SDLP election Literature for candidates in Newry and Armagh contains individual photos of the candidates Cllr Pat Brannigan and Cllr Thomas O Hanlon with Irish President Mary McAleese. I seem to remember a whole row over Caitriona Ruane using a photo of herself and President Mc Aleese in a previous election. I know my good friend P J Bradley had plenty to say about it.. Are these candidates telling us that the President is endorsing them. A serious abuse and disrectful to President Mc Aleese and her position